Category: Conservatives and Science

The Republican War on Science Returns

By Chris Mooney | August 22, 2011 4:30 pm

My latest post at DeSmogBlog is about how, unfortunately, my six year old first book remains as relevant as ever. Just look at Jon Huntsman’s recent and dramatic stand against the anti-science tilt of his own party.

However, there are at least three important updates, or considerations to add to the argument of the original The Republican War on Science. Here are two of them:

2.      It’s Not Just About Science, It’s About Reality. Whatever you may have thought of Bush, I don’t think he approached the full construction of an alternate reality that we see in the Tea Party (although Bush went quite a way towards constructing an alternate reality around the Iraq war). And this leads to the second really important thing that is different now: Even as everybody revives the “war on science” meme, we now realize that the war isn’t really on science at all, but on reality. People who can say that the government banned incandescent light bulbs when it didn’t, who can claim that the U.S. can fail to raise the debt ceiling and it won’t be any problem, or who assert that the 2009 health care bill created government “death panels” are in denial about a lot more than science.

3.      We Need Psychology To Explain This. The major new development, to my mind, has been the application of psychological and neuroscientific approaches to try to understand how people can actually behave and think like this. In particular, more and more attention focuses on motivated reasoning, a subconscious and often automatic emotional process in which people rationalize pre-existing views that are important to their identities, including in the face of direct factual refutation. So we are beginning to be able to understand the Republican denial of science as part of a motivated process in which certain scientific claims are seen as so threatening to self-identity and group affiliations that they must be rejected in order to preserve a sense of self.

You can read the full piece here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Conservatives and Science

A Sideswipe on Ag Biotech

By Chris Mooney | August 22, 2011 3:56 am

Jonathan Adler, who writes much about science from a conservative perspective, doesn’t like anti-GMO yahoos on the left. Neither do I. Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, he writes:

It has been clear for decades that the means through which a crop strain is developed has no bearing on the health or environmental risks such a crop could pose. The scientific consensus here is broader and more stable than on climate change and other contentious environmental questions. The National Academy of Sciences, British Royal Society and EU have all concluded that modern biotech techniques are no more dangerous than traditional crop modification methods. Nevertheless, due to progressive environmental activism and fear campaigns, crops developed with modern biotechnology are subject to greater regulatory scrutiny. As Federoff notes, a reactive precautionary stance may have been justified years ago when biotechnology was new, but there is no scientific justification for such a position today. Yet progressive environmentalists continue to oppose modern agricultural biotechnology — and the supposed defenders of scientific integrity have little to say about it.

That last link, you’ll note, is to this blog.

Why is this a low blow? Because I don’t like anti-GMO advocacy or its scientific exaggerations, and I have spoken and written about this, and Adler knows it very well.

How does he know? I need only link to his own review of my book, 2005’s The Republican War on Science:

UPDATE: One of the best examples of the politicization of science by the “left” — and one of the few that Mooney acknowledges — is the treatment of agricultural biotechnology, and the decision to subject such products to more stringent regulatory review than those developed with other methods. This policy has no scientific basis, as the National Academy of Sciences has stated many times.

Yup, it’s right there in my book, where I ding Greenpeace for the whole “Frankenfoods” demagoguery.

Did Adler forget? Or does he merely sideswipe for no reason?

I don’t exactly write about GM foods or crops every day, but I’ve written about the topic, I’m aware of the state of the science is, etc. Of course.

Adler also has the politics of the issue wrong, incidentally. It’s precisely because the risks of ag biotech are overblown that the left is not mostly opposed to these foods, and consequently, resistance has largely failed to catch on United States. Europe may have more left extremes–and more issues with food in general. But over here, we liberals listen to our scientists and update our views accordingly–this is a core part of our political identities. Consequently, the issue really plays out much like nuclear power–some left activists are emotionally opposed, and hype the risks, but those who listen to the science and the scientists just can’t take that sort of a stance. And you don’t find mainstream liberals being either anti-nuclear, or anti-GM.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Conservatives and Science

Huntsman's Campaign Calls Out Perry on Science Denial

By The Intersection | August 18, 2011 10:05 pm


By Jon Winsor

For the past few days, the Perry campaign has been laying down some serious anti-science markers. Between saying “a substantial number of [climate] scientists… have manipulated data” (an accusation they couldn’t come close to substantiating) and saying, “In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution,” Perry has been going all out for the anti-science primary vote.

A lone, unambiguous, pro-science voice in the Republican field, Jon Huntsman tweeted today:

To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.

You’re not crazy, former governor Huntsman, you’re just working in a field where rational activity has had, shall we say, a strange definition in recent years.

Earlier in the week, Huntsman’s strategist John Weaver reacted to both Perry and Romney’s recent statements:

“We’re not going to win a national election if we become the anti-science party,” John Weaver, Huntsman’s chief strategist, said in an interview Wednesday. “The American people are looking for someone who lives in reality and is a truth teller because that’s the only way that the significant problems this country faces can be solved. It appears that the only science that Mitt Romney believes in is the science of polling, and that science clearly was not a mandatory course for Governor Perry.”

Weaver was also John McCain’s chief strategist in 2000 and 2008. In June, Weaver told Esquire magazine “There’s a simple reason our party is nowhere near being a national governing party… No one wants to be around a bunch of cranks.” Like with Weaver’s previous campaigns, this one seems to involve a large dose of straight talk.

Rick Perry's Texas-Sized Climate Denial

By Chris Mooney | August 17, 2011 4:29 pm

Coming on strong as a candidate, with everybody talking about him, Rick Perry immediately attacks global warming and says it’s all a plot for scientists to get ‘da bucks. It’s like, a welfare program, but for scientists. Here are some quotes:

Fielding audience questions after brief remarks that dwelled largely on fiscal and economic issues, Perry encountered one skeptic who said he was quoting from Perry’s 2010 book, Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America From Washington, then asked whether misgivings about climate science fueled distrust of federal research in general.

“I do believe that the issue of global warming has been politicized,” Perry answered. “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. I think we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. Yes, our climates change. They’ve been changing ever since the earth was formed.”

More here.

Hey Rick Perry–when and how do you think the Earth was formed? What was the “climate” like then? I’d love to hear his answer to that one.

Now, is it surprising to find a GOP candidate denying human caused global warming? Heck no–this is a litmus test issue in the party.

But it is surprising to find how exercised Perry seems to be about it. He isn’t just toeing some line. He actually seems to be engaged with the topic–which is what’s most worrisome.

Can You "Fight Back" Against Climate Deniers with the Same Unity and Intensity?

By Chris Mooney | August 17, 2011 11:04 am

William Butler Yeats famously wrote, in “The Second Coming,” that

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Is this a proxy for the climate fight?

Recently, David Roberts proposed that “climate hawks” have to stop coddling conservative white male climate deniers and just “beat” them politically, by rallying the same intensity in the liberal/environmental base.

But as I reply here, this may not actually be possible. It may be a contradiction in terms:

…how do you make liberals into the true and non-oxymoronic “climate hawks” that Roberts wants to see? It’s incredibly hard. Just look at the spats that erupt constantly on the center and left over climate policy, and how everybody is balkanized and in a completely different camp from those who are only half a political degree away from them on a 360 degree spectrum.

Look at the repeated internecine fights we’ve had over the “End of Environmentalism,” over framing, and over whether messaging should focus on talking about clean energy or about the science of climate.

Or, just count how many different environmental groups there are.

Or, just watch the Monty Python bit about the People’s Front of Judea versus the Judean People’s Front.

You get the point, I think.

My full response to Roberts is here.

Catch Me Today on "Ring of Fire" Discussing Attacks on Climate Education

By Chris Mooney | August 17, 2011 9:37 am

OOPS: I am recording today for a show over the weekend.  My bad. Check local listings here.

I’ll be on the air today around 1 ET–check local listings–with Mike Papantonio. I’ll be discussing this recent DeSmog piece, which got a lot of pickup, about right wing attacks on climate science teaching at the local level.

I hope you’ll tune in.

Rick Perry: Curiously Similar to Michele Bachmann on Science

By The Intersection | August 11, 2011 6:30 pm

By Jon Winsor

Rick Perry, who is supposed to announce his presidential candidacy this weekend, is presently only two points behind Mitt Romney, according to a recent CNN poll. So where does he stand on science?

Rick Perry joins Bachmann in advocating for intelligent design, recently commenting:

“There are clear indications from our people who have amazing intellectual capability that this didn’t happen by accident and a creator put this in place,” Perry said.

“Now, what was his time frame and how did he create the earth that we know? I’m not going to tell you that I’ve got the answers to that,” Perry said. “I believe that we were created by this all-powerful supreme being and how we got to today versus what we look like thousands of years ago, I think there’s enough holes in the theory of evolution to, you know, say there are some holes in that theory.”

Teaching the controversy“– the Discovery Institute would love that. Perry is also solidly in the climate change denialist camp, saying back in 2007 (when many of his fellow GOP governors were acknowledging the scientific consensus):

“Virtually every day another scientist leaves the global warming bandwagon. … But you won’t read about that in the press because they have already invested in one side of the story. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be good stewards of our environment. We should. I am just saying when politics hijack science, it quells true scientific debate and can have dire consequences for our future.”

…Asked for elaboration on the scientists who Perry said are abandoning the “global warming bandwagon,” his office listed two dozen recent articles, almost none about scientists. They range from calls for Gore to lose his Academy Award to a posting from the Tehran Times (“Iran’s leading international daily”) stating that Gore doesn’t deserve the Nobel Peace Prize because as a senator he voted to authorize the first Gulf War.

TalkingPointsMemo DC did an informal poll at the recent Heartland Institute International Convention on Climate Change and found Perry to be a strong presidential favorite among conference goers (with Michele Bachmann running second).

Like Bachmann, Perry bills himself as a libertarian.  Read More

MORE ABOUT: rick perry

Attacks on Climate Science in Schools Are Mounting

By Chris Mooney | August 10, 2011 10:30 am

My latest DeSmog piece is about the classroom climate for climate science teaching–and how poisonous it is getting. It starts like this:

A few months back, those who care about accurate climate science and energy education in high school classes registered a minor victory. Under fire from outlets like The New York Times, the education publishing behemoth Scholastic (of Clifford the Big Red Dog and Harry Potter fame) pulled an energy curriculum sponsored by the American Coal Foundation, which gave a nice PR sheen to coal without bothering to cover, uh, the whole environmental angle. The curriculum had reportedly already been mailed to 66,000 classrooms by the time it got yanked.

When it comes to undermining accurate and responsible climate and energy education at the high school level, Scholastic may have been the most prominent transgressor. But precisely because it is a massive and respected educational publisher, and actually careswhat The New York Times thinks, it was also the most moderate and easy to reason with.

Although it’s hard to find online now, I’ve reviewed the offending coal curriculum, entitled “The United States of Energy.” In my view, it didn’t even contain any obvious falsehoods—except for errors of omission. It was more a case of subtle greenwashing.

What’s currently seeping into classrooms across the country is far, far worse—more ideological, and more difficult to stop. We’re talking about outright climate denial being fed to students—and accurate climate science teaching being attacked by aggressive Tea Party-style ideologues.

You can read on here….

Climate Science, Energy Policy, and the Return of Conspiracy Theory Politics

By The Intersection | August 7, 2011 8:05 pm

By Jon Winsor

In 2008, the late conservative movement architect William F. Buckley wrote a Commentary article describing the now-famous problem he faced in getting Barry Goldwater nominated for president:

…It was embarrassing that the only political organization in town that dared suggest this radical proposal—the GOP’s nominating Goldwater for President—was the John Birch Society…

The society had been founded in 1958 by an earnest and capable entrepreneur named Robert Welch, a candy man [inventor of the Sugar Daddy –ed], who brought together little clusters of American conservatives, most of them businessmen. He demanded two undistracted days in exchange for his willingness to give his seminar on the Communist menace to the United States, which he believed was more thoroughgoing and far-reaching than anyone else in America could have conceived. His influence was near-hypnotic, and his ideas wild. He said Dwight D. Eisenhower was a “dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy,” and that the government of the United States was “under operational control of the Communist party.”

Goldwater might have been a harsh critic of Eisenhower (calling his policies a “dime store new deal”) but he never thought Eisenhower was anything like “an agent of the Communist conspiracy.”

The rest of the article describes how Buckley and Goldwater read the conspiracy theorists out of the movement. In 1962, Buckley, Goldwater, Russell Kirk, and PR professional Jay Hall met to discuss how they were going to move forward:

[Buckley pledged that] unless Welch himself disowned his operative fallacy, National Review would oppose any support for the society.

“How would you define the Birch fallacy?” Jay Hall asked.

“The fallacy,” I said, “is the assumption that you can infer subjective intention from objective consequence: we lost China to the Communists, therefore the President of the United States and the Secretary of State wished China to go to the Communists.”

“I like that,” Goldwater said.

What would Russell Kirk do? He was straightforward. “Me? I’ll just say, if anybody gets around to asking me, that the guy is loony and should be put away.”

So what would Russell Kirk, Buckley and Goldwater make of the now-powerful members of the movement today, claiming that there’s a nefarious conspiracy involving 98% of climate scientists? Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Conservatives and Science

Sometimes, A Graphic Helps

By Chris Mooney | August 3, 2011 10:10 pm

In my DeSmog post that is getting a lot of traction right now, I talk about conservative white males’ “smart idiocy” when it comes to thinking they’re equipped to overturn modern climate science. Now, I learn that xkcd beat me to the punch with respect to this particular type of hubris:

Um, yeah. That says it all. Dudes, I know you want to argue and everything, but Einstein still wins.

And so do the climate scientists.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Conservatives and Science

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